College of Visual and Performing Arts
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Mason sets the stage for performing arts careers

September 6, 2018   /   by Mary Lee Clark

George Mason University’s proximity to Washington, D.C.’s vibrant theater scene helps its students and graduates launch their careers as performers, while allowing its professors to keep their stage careers going. 

As a student, Mason alumnus Ryan Duncan found that roles in local theaters in the Washington, D.C., area led him to the stage on Broadway. And professor and award-winning actor Edward Gero continues his acting career while inspiring his students in the classroom.

Duncan graduated with a BA in foreign languages in 1995 with a concentration in Spanish. He also studied French, Arabic and Portuguese. His degree, he says, is a valuable part of his career because it gave him experience in other cultures and languages that allows him to create multiples types of roles. ​

Ryan Duncan. Photo provided.

“What is going to help you is all those other things you could have studied, whether culture, history, language, race and gender,” said Duncan. “All these things you have studied in school, even math, will become what sets you apart from everyone else in the room."  

In his 2014 role in “Altar Boyz,” Duncan was able to incorporate Spanish into the show. He’s also performed in a bilingual “Wizard of Oz” performance called “Yellow Brick Road.”

Currently, Duncan is in the ensemble for “Gettin’ the Band Back Together,” a show about an old high school rock band reuniting, which opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre in August. 

Gero, an associate professor in Mason’s School of Theater, recently returned from New York’s 59E59 Theater and his role as Antonin Scalia in “The Originalist,” a show about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the United States v. Windsor case, a landmark civil rights case on marriage equality.  

As part of the original cast and creators, Gero spent a year with Justice Scalia preparing for the role by getting to know him and the Supreme Court. The show premiered in 2015 in Washington, D.C., a year before Scalia’s death.

Gero said that teaching and performing at the same time is not only beneficial to his students, who benefit from having a professor who is “walking the walk,” but it also helps him fine-tune his skills and consider other perspectives. ​

Edward Gero in “The Originalist.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

"It keeps me fresh,” said Gero. “It keeps me sharp."

Now that class is back in session for the fall, Gero will be working on his next show, “Born Yesterday,” which will run at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., in September while he is also teaching acting and script classes.

Duncan and Gero are not the only ones who spent the summer in New York City. Mason alumna Sasha Hollinger, BFA Dance ’09, is continuing her role in the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton” in New York. She started with the show with her role as “the bullet” in 2016. 

Hollinger earned the Friends of Dance scholarship and was able to move to New York City after graduation with a classmate from Mason’s School of Dance without debt. Having professors who worked in the industry meant she knew what to expect when jumping into her career. 

“Some [dancers] just move to New York; I’m happy I listened to my mom and went to school first,” she said in a previous article for Mason.